My two top books are both monuments of, and to, scholarship. The much-needed new edition of Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy pays respects to a work that is close to my heart in its obsessive, searching, elephantine reach. Many years ago the writer John Crowley recommended two books to me: The Man Without Qualities and The Anatomy of Melancholy. He clearly saw me well. Mary Ann Lund’s book offers a good introduction to Burton if the monster tome itself seems unapproachable.

Susan Bernofsky’s biography of Robert Walser is simply the best literary biography I’ve read in some time, meticulously researched and beautifully written, the result of Bernofsky’s 30 years of deep engagement with Walser. The writing itself is exceptional, making it also the most literary literary biography I have read in many a year.

Otherwise, it was a good year for books, better than 2020 overall, with the exception of comics, where remarkable entries seemed quite thin (at least among established publishers). This possibly owes to the ongoing genteelification of the medium and the concomitant insecurities. But Brecht Evens’s long awaited new work is his greatest yet, beautiful and dense, with stunning use of color.

Keep reading, and happy new year, as happy a one as is feasible.


The Anatomy of Melancholy
Burton, Robert (Author)
Penguin Classics

Clairvoyant of the Small: The Life of Robert Walser
Bernofsky, Susan (Author)
Yale University Press


Be as Children (Dedalus Europe Book 0)
Sharov, Vladimir (Author), Ready, Oliver (Translator)

The Wife Who Wasn't: A Novel
Ifland, Alta (Author)
New Europe Books

The Symphonies
Bely, Andrei (Author), Stone, Jonathan (Translator)
Columbia University Press

Kapo (New York Review Books Classics)
Tisma, Aleksander (Author), Williams, Richard (Translator), Rieff, David (Afterword)
NYRB Classics

The Trees: A Novel
Everett, Percival (Author)
Graywolf Press

Impostures (Library of Arabic Literature, 65)
al-Ḥarīrī (Author), Cooperson, Michael (Translator), Kilito, Abdelfattah (Foreword)
NYU Press

At Night All Blood Is Black
Diop, David (Author)
Picador Paper

Here in Our Auschwitz and Other Stories (The Margellos World Republic of Letters)
Tadeusz Borowski (Author), Madeline G. Levine (Translator)
Yale University Press

Terminal Boredom: Stories
Suzuki, Izumi (Author), Barton, Polly (Translator), Bett, Sam (Translator), Boyd, David (Translator), Joseph, Daniel (Translator)
Verso Fiction

Chasing Homer
Krasznahorkai, László (Author), Miklós, Szilveszter (Performer), Batki, John (Translator), Neumann, Max (Artist)
New Directions

The Notes: or On Non-premature Reconciliation (The Margellos World Republic of Letters)
Hohl, Ludwig (Author), Cohen, Joshua (Foreword), Lewis, Tess (Translator)
Yale University Press

Brief Lives of Idiots
Cavazzoni, Ermanno (Author), Richards, Jamie (Introduction)
Wakefield Press

Kalevala: The Epic of the Finnish People
Lönnrot, Elias (Editor), Korpela, Jukka (Introduction), Friberg, Eino (Translator)

The Book of All Skies
Egan, Greg (Author)
Greg Egan

We All Hear Stories in the Dark [Trade Paperback 3 Volume Set]
Robert Shearman (Author), Michael Marshall Smith (Author), Lisa Tuttle (Author), Angela Slatter (Author), Steven Moffat (Author), Reggie Oliver (Illustrator), Reggie Oliver (Illustrator)
PS Publishing

The Stone Face
Smith, William Gardner (Author), Shatz, Adam (Introduction)
NYRB Classics

Stewart, George R. (Author), Rich, Nathaniel (Introduction)
NYRB Classics

Good Behaviour (New York Review Books Classics)
Keane, Molly (Author), Gentry, Amy (Introduction)
NYRB Classics

Rakes of the Old Court: A Novel (Northwestern World Classics)
Caragiale, Mateiu (Author), Cotter, Sean (Translator)
Northwestern University Press

McGrotty and Ludmilla (Canons)
Gray, Alasdair (Author)
Canongate Canons

PARADISE: Dante's Divine Trilogy Part Three. Englished in Prosaic Verse by Alasdair Gray
Gray, Alasdair (Author), Alighieri, Dante (Author)
Canongate Books

The Life Written by Himself (Russian Library)
Petrov, Archpriest Avvakum (Author), Gluck, Michael (Editor), Brostrom, Kenneth (Translator)
Columbia University Press

Victor Mair (Author), Victor Mair (Editor), Zhenjun Zhang (Editor)
World Scientific Publishing Company

The Penguin Book of Spanish Short Stories
Jull Costa, Margaret (Editor), Jull Costa, Margaret (Translator), Bunstead, Thomas (Translator), Bush, Peter (Translator), Phillips-Miles, Kathryn (Translator), Deefholt, Simon (Translator), Maude, Kit (Translator)

The Spirit of Controversy: and Other Essays (Oxford World's Classics)
Hazlitt, William (Author), Mee, Jon (Editor), Grande, James (Editor)
Oxford University Press

Samuel Johnson: Selected Works
Johnson, Samuel (Author), DeMaria, Robert (Editor), Fix, Stephen (Editor), Weinbrot, Howard D (Editor)
Yale University Press


Philosophy and Religion in Plato's Dialogues
Nightingale, Andrea (Author)
Cambridge University Press

Lucian, True History: Introduction, Text, Translation, and Commentary
Clay, Diskin (Author), Brusuelas, James H. (Editor)
OUP Oxford

Expanding Horizons in the History of Science
Lloyd, G. E. R. (Author)
Cambridge University Press

Inwardness: An Outsider's Guide (No Limits)
Ganeri, Jonardon (Author)
Columbia University Press

St. Matthew Passion (signale|TRANSFER: German Thought in Translation)
Blumenberg, Hans (Author), Müller-Sievers, Helmut (Translator), Fleming, Paul (Translator)
Cornell University Press and Cornell University Library

Cassirer (The Routledge Philosophers)
Matherne, Samantha (Author)

Music, Math, and Mind: The Physics and Neuroscience of Music
Sulzer, David (Author)
Columbia University Press

The Philosophical Stage: Drama and Dialectic in Classical Athens
Billings, Joshua (Author)
Princeton University Press

Uncountable: A Philosophical History of Number and Humanity from Antiquity to the Present
Nirenberg, David (Author), Nirenberg, Ricardo L. (Author)
University of Chicago Press

Plato's Sun-Like Good: Dialectic in the Republic
Broadie, Sarah (Author)
Cambridge University Press

A User's Guide to Melancholy
Lund, Mary Ann (Author)
Cambridge University Press


Fundamentals: Ten Keys to Reality
Wilczek, Frank (Author)
Penguin Books

The Hidden Spring: A Journey to the Source of Consciousness
Solms, Mark (Author)
W. W. Norton & Company


Outrageous Fortune: Gloomy Reflections on Luck and Life
Miller, William Ian (Author)
Oxford University Press

Information: A Historical Companion
Blair, Ann (Editor), Duguid, Paul (Editor), Goeing, Anja-Silvia (Editor), Grafton, Anthony (Editor)
Princeton University Press

Book Wars: The Digital Revolution in Publishing
Thompson, John B. (Author)

The Future of Money: How the Digital Revolution Is Transforming Currencies and Finance
Prasad, Eswar S. (Author)
Belknap Press: An Imprint of Harvard University Press

The Banks Did It: An Anatomy of the Financial Crisis
Fligstein, Neil (Author)
Harvard University Press


My Seven Lives: Jana Juráňová in Conversation with Agneša Kalinová
Juráňová, Jana (Author), Kalinová, Agneša (Author)
Purdue University Press

Law and the Party in China: Ideology and Organisation
Creemers, Rogier J. E. H. (Editor), Trevaskes, Susan (Editor)
Cambridge University Press

The World Turned Upside Down: A History of the Chinese Cultural Revolution
Yang, Jisheng (Author), Mosher, Stacy (Translator), Jian, Guo (Translator)
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Nuclear Folly: A History of the Cuban Missile Crisis
Plokhy, Serhii (Author)
W. W. Norton & Company

Cicero: Political Philosophy (Founders of Modern Political and Social Thought)
Schofield, Malcolm (Author)
Oxford University Press

India and the World: A History of Connections, c. 1750–2000
Markovits, Claude (Author)
Cambridge University Press

China's Leaders: From Mao to Now
Shambaugh, David (Author)

Hobbes's Political Philosophy: Interpretation and Interpretations
Martinich, A.P. (Author)
Oxford University Press


The City of Belgium
Evens, Brecht (Author)
Drawn and Quarterly

Donjon Monsters T13: Réveille-toi et meurs
David B. (Drawings), Sfar, Joann (Contributor), Trondheim, Lewis (Contributor)

Alberto Breccia's Dracula (The Alberto Breccia Library)
Breccia, Alberto (Author), Breccia, Alberto (Artist)
Fantagraphics Books

Trots and Bonnie
Flenniken, Shary (Author), Hathaway, Norman (Editor), Flake, Emily (Introduction), Hathaway, Norman (Designer)
New York Review Comics

Jimbo: Adventures in Paradise (New York Review Comics)
Panter, Gary (Author), Rudick, Nicole (Afterword), Ruscha, Ed (Foreword)
New York Review Comics

Lewis Trondheim's The Fly
Trondheim, Lewis (Author)

Dungeon: Zenith vol. 4: Outside the Ramparts (4)
Trondheim, Lewis (Author), Sfar, Joann (Author), Boulet (Illustrator)
NBM Publishing

Nuft and the Last Dragons, Volume 1: The Great Technowhiz (NUFT & LAST DRAGONS GN)
Milton, Freddy (Author), Milton, Freddy (Artist)
Fantagraphics Books

When I Grow Up: The Lost Autobiographies of Six Yiddish Teenagers
Krimstein, Ken (Author)
Bloomsbury Publishing


Myself and My Aims: Writings on Art and Criticism
Schwitters, Kurt (Author), Luke, Megan R. (Editor), Grundy, Timothy (Translator)
University of Chicago Press

Aby Warburg: Bilderatlas Mnemosyne: The Original
Warburg, Aby (Author), Heil, Axel (Contributor), Ohrt, Roberto (Contributor), Scherer, Bernd (Contributor), Sherman, Bill (Contributor), Wedepohl, Claudia (Contributor)
Hatje Cantz